Standing inside the front doors, at the bottom of the steps leading up to the foyer, Lily was overwhelmed. Her hotel was nice, sure. Nothing wrong with it. But this — this was something altogether different. This was grandeur on a scale she could have never imagined. Plucked from a different era, it seemed to dwell in rarefied space and to quietly command respect, as though the door through which she had just come was the gateway to a parallel world. Now realizing how awkward and touristy she must seem, standing there halfway inside the hotel, she began to walk towards the steps while removing her scarf, though she did not know why as she had told herself that this would only be a walk-thru and that she had no intention of staying. But she was not thinking. She was taking it all in, one tiny detail at a time, and in doing so had lost focus of her own actions. She had never seen in person such a large, checkerboard floor, and could not get past the dramatic effect of it when placed against what would have otherwise been, she felt, an unwelcoming shade of yellow. But together, it worked, as did so many of the art deco details like the metal crafted door frames and the large, bevel cut mirrors. Looking to her left, she saw two chairs in front of a fireplace just outside the entrance of the dining room. In one of them was an older lady apparently well past eighty judging by the presence of the nurse standing alongside, and the walking frame against the wall, whose eyes and face still seemed young and alert, as though her body had perhaps given in much to the dismay of her still determined mind. Not wanting to impose on her space, but wanting to sit and enjoy the aura and splendor of this place if only for a few moments, Lily looked over to the right and saw a sofa along with two other chairs, none of which were taken. Choosing to sit in the dead center of the sofa so as to be able to watch the front entrance, the hotel’s main lift, and the dining room all at once, Lily felt like a spectator on the movie set of a classic film. The women and men who glided effortlessly across the floor — on which Lily had felt certain that she had clomped like an untrained mule — were born to this world. It came too naturally to them to have been otherwise, she thought. Their clothes were none that she had ever seen in a magazine or even in a window in one of the many shops in Hong Kong or this morning here in London. Whereas people like her wore the clothes to make the person, these people seemed to choose their clothes as a background of neutral onto which they could project their polished presence, which to Lily was most formidable.
Though there was the occasional entrance from the front door of someone there to meet a resident for breakfast, almost everyone Lily saw had come down either from the main lift — an old, original model still operated manually by a leprechaun of a man in a suit not dissimilar to the doormen’s — or from the large, sweeping staircase just above where she sat. Yet she had, as of yet, seen no one leave as they all seemed to be converging on the dining room, each greeting the hostess and then being led off to a table in one direction or another. She had however noticed that the most pristine of those destined to take their breakfast here this morning did not have need to give their names to the hostess, and nor did they appear to communicate their preference in table location, as each of them seemed to have been taken immediately and without instruction across the main, center room and into a room adjacent, just off to the left. No longer satisfied with sitting on the outside, Lily now wanted more than anything to be in that room. To be amongst those people and to know what the secret was for gaining entrée to their world. Looking at her watch she estimated she had at least another hour before Jakob’s call, and still at least three hours before she was allowed to check into what she now felt certain would be a mediocre hotel room. Not thinking twice before making her decision, Lily stood and straightened her skirt and then re-buttoned her fitted coat, well aware of the silhouette she created in doing so, and not content to wait any longer for that world to come to her.